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The Devil in Diotrephes

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 5, 2024 12:00 am

The Devil in Diotrephes

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 5, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version or read the manuscript of this message here:  Before the creation of the earth, the sin of pride caused separation from God. And since he was cast out of heaven, the prince of this world--Satan--has been using this insidious offense to establish a wedge between us and the Lord. In these verses from his short letter to a friend, the Apostle John warns us of a prideful church leader, describing five symptoms of pride so we can recognize this soul disease in others ... and in ourselves.


He emptied himself, Paul wrote to the Philippians. He set that aside and took on the form of a servant.

No nobility there. He humbled himself. He obeyed even to that point of death which was death on a cross.

The most demeaning way to die. He demonstrated such humility in redeeming us. How can we who've been redeemed demonstrate such pride? Jesus offered the ultimate example of humility when he left his home in heaven, became a man, allowed himself to be mistreated by people he created and then died for our sins.

The message of scripture is that we're to follow Jesus' example, but we don't always do it. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey returns to his series from 3rd John with a lesson called The Devil in Diotrophes. In verses 9 and 10 of this letter to a friend, Jesus warns of a prideful church leader. As he does, he describes five symptoms of pride. As you listen today, it's an opportunity to see if you can recognize the disease of pride in your own life. If you're in a place where you can do this, go ahead and open your Bible to 3rd John 9 as Stephen gets started with today's message from God's Word.

In his classic fictional work, C.S. Lewis imagines an older demon instructing a younger demon on the art of tripping up a Christian. The book is called The Screwtape Letters and chapter 14 is all about how to inflate the pride of the Christian man Wormwood. This younger demon has been assigned to keep from progressing in his spiritual walk with the Lord.

The older demon, Screwtape, writes this advice to young Wormwood. Your patient has become humble, so have you drawn his attention to that fact? All virtues are less powerful against us once someone is aware they have them, and this is especially true of humility. So catch him at the moment when he is really humble in spirit and smuggle into his mind the thought, by Jove, I'm being humble and pride at his own humility will appear. Mark Twain once wrote humorously on the occasion of humility. He said, if I ever achieve humility, I'll sure be proud of it. Well said, huh?

I mean, isn't that human nature? If I ever achieve humility, I'm going to be proud of it, which is why humility is that one attribute which is unique in and of itself. The moment you think you've got it is the moment you've lost it.

You've lost it. Well, in our text for this morning, as we continue to expound on the third letter from the Apostle John, turn to John, his third letter, Third John. But John is going to introduce us to a man who has stage four pride. And he's going to essentially give us the symptoms of this spiritually devastating condition. So let's pick up our study. We've arrived now at verse nine. I wrote something to the church, but diatrophes who loves to be first among them does not accept what we say. Stop for a moment there. You notice here that John has written a letter that has evidently gone missing.

We don't have it. He's not referring to First John. He's not referring to Second John. There's a letter where he refers to the pride of diatrophes, and yet this is the first time we hear about it, specifically addressing this man. He'd evidently written it to the church at large. Notice I wrote something to the church.

So it's fairly easy to assume that diatrophes, whereas the leading elder, the pastor teacher here in this church, suppressed that letter. There are some that believe he destroyed it. We don't have it.

God didn't preserve it for us. Many believe that John is now writing this letter, another letter, which is a follow-up letter, and he's not writing it to the church. He hasn't addressed it to the church. He's addressed it to Gaius. I want to make sure somebody gets a hold of this letter rather than diatrophes so that he can read it and share it with the assembly.

I don't want another letter to be lost in the dumpster or put through the shredder, which is perhaps what diatrophes have done. Now keep in mind as we sort of introduce this man, nowhere in this letter are we given any explicit information that tells us what position he held in the church or we're not told. But I think frankly it's wise of the Lord not to tell us what position diatrophes held in the church so we can all take it to heart, so we can all apply this to our own lives, because it's possible for any and all of us to become infected with this demonically inspired, fallen, human, nature-loving kind of sin.

We're all just a half step away. Now what John does is he gives us a number of phrases that describe how bad his condition happens to be. And you might wonder, why did the Lord preserve a letter where 15 percent of the content describes somebody caught up in pride? I mean, why spend, in fact, Stephen, an entire sermon on a man whom we never want to become? Well, that's the answer.

That's the answer. God has given us this inspired description so that we can see the kind of person we don't want to become, or maybe to rebuke us because we already are. Let me give you, as we work through this text, an outline of five observations.

I'll just sort of give you these categorical observations that describe them. Number one, his motivation was egotistical. John writes, notice again verse nine, diatrophes loves to be first. It's actually just one word in the original language. It's a compound word made up of the word love and first.

Philos for love and protos for first. Literally, he loves first place. He's got to be first in line at recess, or he's not going to be happy out on the playground. He's looking good here in the body. He sounds mature. He sounds godly. He seems to have direction in mind. He seems concerned for the entire church, but John is going to just sort of pull that mask away and show us the self-seeking, power-hungry, eager desire man who simply wants to be king of the mountain.

He has to be first. In fact, John gives us this word in the present tense to indicate that this kind of ambition is ongoing. It didn't just happen.

It didn't just show up every so often. This is ongoing habitual pride and all you got to do is get around this guy and five minutes into your conversation, it's going to shift to him. He's going to start talking about himself. He has to be first. Someone once asked a famous conductor what is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra and he quickly responded, second fiddle. Well, diatrophes isn't the kind of guy to play second fiddle, even, which is really amazing to me, in regards to the apostle John. Hey John, you take a back seat.

I've got this one all by myself. There's a wonderful clue, I believe, in the name of diatrophes. His name is not a common name like John or Gaius, whom we've been introduced to in this letter already. It's a Greek name which literally means nourished by Zeus.

You could render it fostered by Zeus. This name was typically reserved for members of nobility and it was reserved by noble and ancient families for their firstborn sons. Diatrophes was more than likely a member of the Greek aristocracy. Why had the church so cowered before this man? Several have pointed out in my study that he would have been naturally intimidating due to his status and his position, his rank. He had perhaps never really dealt with it in his heart and after being redeemed he just sort of brought that status into the church and everybody just sort of promoted him to his ruin.

We all have the same problem. We have celebrities in the church as well. We have this pecking order. Unfortunately, we have a hard time learning that there are no aristocrats in the assembly.

There are no celebrities in the church. There are only redeemed sinners who happen to belong to somebody. He's the somebody. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Amen? And he's the somebody. John just kind of pulls off the mask here and reveals the ugly truth.

Diatrophes wants to be that somebody. That's devilish. That's Lucifer saying, I want your throne for myself. Secondly, his mind was unteachable. Notice again in the end of verse 9, he does not accept us more woodenly.

You could paraphrase it as my translation does. He does not accept what we say, expands it out. What John means here is that diatrophes is openly disregarding apostolic authority.

That's not a good idea. I mean even to the point of disregarding, maybe even discarding an earlier letter. John who? Big deal.

I'm the big deal here. And again, this is in the present tense. So John is describing someone who who continually refuses to accept or acknowledge any authority but his own.

That's dangerous for all of us. Isn't it beloved? His ears are closed. His mind is shut down and I'm just not going to listen. I thought it was interesting to just sort of illustrate this spirit that's alive and well. A.T. Robertson was a wonderful scholar and professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville for many years. In fact he died on a day he was teaching. He didn't feel good, let his students go early, went home and died of a stroke after decades of teaching in 1934. But on one occasion he was asked to write an article for the Southern Baptist publication and he did.

He wrote it on diatrophes and he just kind of exposed the whole thing, that whole spirit. A few weeks later the editor told him that 25 deacons had stopped getting the paper because they were personally offended at having been attacked in the article. Well if the shoe fits. Well just to balance the scales and make the deacons out here feel a little better. He also wrote on one occasion this, the greatest proof the Bible is inspired is that it has survived so much bad preaching.

I didn't think that was funny either. If the shoe fits right. One of the marks of a wise individual isn't that they know more, it's that they're willing to be taught more. And when they're taught more, they love the one who delivers it even if it's a rebuke. John is not being loved in return which is dangerous for this man and for this assembly.

Third John writes further, this man's mouth was disgraceful. Verse 10, for this reason if I come, if I come and that construction doesn't mean I may not. It means I haven't figured out the date I'm going to arrive but if and when I do come. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to call attention to his deeds which he does unjustly accusing us with wicked words. In other words when I arrive I'm going to bring diatrophies out into the light of truth and expose this for the sake of diatrophies and for the sake of the church. So notice here diatrophies isn't just interested in ignoring John's command, he's actually going further. He's interested in assassinating John's character and John describes a word here. He says these accusations are wicked words.

That's one of the favorite words of John. He uses the word wicked five times in his letters. Four times he's talking about the devil. He's the wicked one, the wicked one, the wicked one, the wicked one. Diatrophies is using wicked words.

Don't think for a moment people didn't connect the dots. This is the devil in diatrophies. John's just calling what it is.

It's wicked. This is the vile nature of the devil in his unjust accusations, his schemes. Don't miss the fact by the way beloved that even though these are unjust and John dismisses that all is being true things are still being said and I can guarantee you John was hurt.

He was a human being. Maybe you felt the same way. Unjust accusations, hey that isn't true. Does that help you? It still hurts doesn't it?

What's going on? This diatrophy is essentially bad mouths. John even though it isn't true, little doubt that it would hurt. So he warns the flock and he faces down his accuser and he announces he's going to show up. There's a fourth descriptive phrase about diatropies.

Number four, his mannerism was inhospitable. Look at the middle part of verse 10. And not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren either. In other words, diatropies is refusing to show hospitality to those men we've already noticed have taken the gospel on the road. These are the church planters, these are the missionaries, these are the church workers, these are the individuals, these are the individuals who are taking the truth out there and Gaius is welcoming his home and the church is treating them generously and lavishly and diatropies is going to step in and say that's enough of that.

Why? Well these are the associates of John the apostle which means diatrophy sees these men as a threat to his authority. He doesn't want the body around them, he doesn't want people in the church talking to them, he isn't going to give the pulpit to them, he wants them out of there, he doesn't want anybody in that assembly whom he has abducted getting near those men, he will be exposed. So he's refusing to extend to them the courtesy of hospitality.

He does not receive them, he is personally in hospital. Now that wasn't bad enough to protect his turf. There's one more characteristic, it's this, number five. His method was inflexible. Go to verse 10 the latter part. And he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church. In other words, if he finds somebody in the assembly going behind his back and taking care of one of these church workers, he's actually going to kick that individual out of the church.

Get out twisted this has become. He's refusing to take in godly people and he's going to kick godly people out. You can see the danger this church is in, can't you? And the danger Dioptes is in. He's become a one-man wrecking crew.

He's bullheaded, he's obstinate, pugnacious, frankly nobody's safe around him. I mean pity the woman who behind Dioptes is back, besides the, you know, bacon casserole. Pity that poor woman. Pity the poor couple that say, hey you guys I got a spare room.

You can spend the night here. If Dioptes finds out you're in deep trouble, he will put you out of the church. So get the irony here of this. This is how twisted pride can take someone and the assembly. Dioptes is practicing church discipline on people who are doing the right thing. That's how twisted it is.

He's unaccountable, he's proud, he's unyielding, he's unteachable, and Wormwood has worked his way in and his pride is bearing the fruit of lust for even more power and control. In fact John uses a verb here in verse 10 where he says that he puts them out of the church. It's a verb that literally denotes violent physical action.

It's almost too hard to imagine. But this is the same verb used of the Lord driving out of the temple the money changers. He drove them out.

Dioptes is driving them out. In this perverted sense he is successfully hijacking this local church. He's literally driving away those who are the healthy ones of the body. This church is in danger. John, you know, he's the apostle of love.

He's in his early to mid 90s. You remember? He's earned this nickname by the church. He's called the apostle love.

So kind and compassionate. Well he was given a nickname. You remember? I've mentioned this by Jesus decades earlier, the son of thunder, where you're gonna hear some thunder. You're about to hear some thunder. I mean it's off in the distance a little bit.

It's going to arrive. And that thunder isn't going to be directed toward the lady who cooked the casserole. The truth is diatrophes is all tripped up and tangled up. He's self-destructing. I don't think he started this way. I mean he courageously left his heritage, some noble family, his highborn status, and he entered the church. We could assume believing the gospel. In fact it's interesting that John really doesn't go much further than this, I think, in an attempt to know he wants to win him back.

I'm just going to come and when I come I'm going to expose this to the light. That's all I'm going to say for now. But he's in danger and the church with him. His motive is egotistical. His mind is unteachable. His mouth is disgraceful. His mannerism is inhospitable.

His method is inflexible. Now it'd be easy to pack away our Bibles at this point and and leave in a few minutes and say to ourselves, wow, that diatrophy is, man, what a mess he was. What a mess. I love it when the pastor preaches about somebody that I'm not. In fact there were a few people I wish were here to hear that message. This has been great.

What's for lunch? Let's make it personal. The spirit of diatrophy, beloved, can be in me.

I'm a half step away. It can be in you and our church can be in great danger. I can't tell you how many times I'm on the phone with a graduate of our seminary who's now planting a church or as a young pastor taking an older church that's dying and trying to revitalize it and it isn't long before the same message comes back to me over the phone, Stephen, we need to move in this direction but there's this one guy, there's this one man, he's been in the church for decades or he's an officer in the church and he has hijacked the assembly. My advice is always the same, stay as gracious as you possibly can, keep preaching the word and pray you will outlive him.

I'm not saying do anything, just outlive them. So let's make this personal. A couple of questions. Am I attending this church because of what it can do for me? That could be where it starts. I mean maybe you're new here and you know you do have that checklist.

I mean we've all got it. You know when I arrive at church, if I'm going to go to that church, the checklist has to be all there. I'm going to check them on. A readily available parking space, check. Friendly greeter, an usher, check. Plenty of seats in the back, check. Music is excellent, check. The sermon is outstanding.

Double check. The church just works so well for me. You know what we're saying? The church works for me. That's the spirit of diographies. Number two, am I willing to serve in this church even if no one recognizes or notices me? Maybe you've been here a while and you've been serving and it's a lonely feeling at times. This could go a number of different ways. You could think, you know this church is big enough where I can come slip in and slip out. It's big enough that I don't have to do anything and nobody will notice me. Or this church is big enough to allow opportunities to serve where someone will notice me.

Either way that's dangerous ground. Third, am I teachable when challenged or corrected with the way I think or act? How do I respond to my parents if you're in the home?

How do I respond to my spouse? How do I respond when challenged by the truth of God's word by means of his spirit? You challenge a foolish man and he will hate you. And he will hate you.

You challenge a wise man and he will love you. One more, do I always have to be right? Do I always have to be first?

Do I always have to be in front? Well let's be warned more than that. Let's be wise as we walk with Christ and serve one another and especially during this season. It's all about the gospel and we have opportunity to take that to so many people. What is the gospel? The gospel is about our Redeemer, the one who models humility. I mean you talk about setting aside status, nobility, glory. He emptied himself. Paul wrote to the Philippians. He set that aside and he emptying himself took on the form of a servant.

No nobility there. He humbled himself. He obeyed even to that point of death which was death on a cross, the most demeaning way to die. I mean he demonstrated such humility in redeeming us. How can we who've been redeemed demonstrate such pride?

It has no place in the gospel and somebody will be hurt if we're not stopped. One author captured the danger when he wrote it this way, pride is the mother hen under which all other sins are hatched. It's good, isn't it? So let's be warned. Let's be winsome. Let's be wise. The message you just heard here on Wisdom for the Heart comes from a series called Postcards from John. This particular message from that series is entitled The Devil in Diotrephes. If you joined us late and missed the first part of this message, you'll find it in its entirety on our website You can go there anytime if you miss a lesson and want to get caught up or if you want to access the other resources we have available. I invite you to sign up for a free membership in a group Stephen calls Friends of Wisdom. Once you do, you're going to begin receiving resources from Stephen that'll help you walk wisely through life. Friends of Wisdom receive an email from Stephen each Tuesday. He might send an encouraging article to help you better apply God's word to your everyday life. Sometimes he answers a Bible question he received. It's always interesting to see what people are asking and to read Stephen's answers. You might find that you're wondering the very same thing and maybe you have your own question that you want Stephen to answer. At least once a month, our Friends of Wisdom receive a free resource. All you need to do is visit forward slash friends and fill out a brief form.

That's it. You'll be signed up and you'll start hearing from Stephen very soon. By the way, you'll receive two free resources immediately. Sign up today, then join us back here next time for more Wisdom for the Heart. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-05 00:45:16 / 2024-03-05 00:54:55 / 10

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